People and animals face harrowing obstacles to leaving Afghanistan
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Among the myriad tragedies affecting lives in Afghanistan is the plight of domestic animals facing separation from families unable to take them when they flee and the prospect of, at best, poor treatment from the ruling Taliban -- a group not known for kindness to animals. Animals awaiting rescue include pets from embassies (the United States Embassy did not allow pets on evacuation flights), working dogs for defense contractors (U.S. military working dogs were evacuated), and street animals.
In their quest to rescue not only staff but also animals, two nonprofit charitable animal welfare groups, Nowzad and Kabul Small Animal Rescue, are facing huge obstacles. In a video posted on Facebook on Aug. 21, Pen Farthing -- former British Royal Marine commando and founder of Nowzad, which is caring for approximately 150 animals -- said banks and ATMs are closed, so he is unable to pay staff their wages. At that time, Nowzad had only a few days’ supply of pet food remaining.
Getting humans and animals to the airport is challenging and dangerous. At Kabul Small Animal Rescue, co-founded by American Charlotte Maxwell-Jones and Afghan head veterinarian and vice president Tahera Rezaei, Maxwell-Jones had completed paperwork to get her colleagues out of the country. But at the time of writing, she needed not only safe passage to the airport for approximately 200 people and 200 animals, but also a landing permit for the animals. Nowzad, too, needed a secure access route to reach the airport safely with staff, their families and animals (a plan they called Operation Ark). Both groups are being aided by other humane organizations as well as donations from individuals; at press time, the U.K. government had agreed to help Pen Farthing, Nowzad shelter staff and rescue animals to depart from Kabul. Kabul Small Animal Rescue's status was still uncertain.
Regulations regarding animal importation are a barrier as well. In July, after a rise in the number of dogs imported with fraudulent rabies vaccination paperwork, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention temporarily suspended importation of dogs from high-risk countries for canine rabies, including Afghanistan (the ruling does not apply to cats). Before entering the U.S., dogs will be required to spend six months in a country not at high risk for rabies.
Before the Afghanistan crisis developed, bringing animals into the U.S. from overseas for adoption was already controversial. Besides rabies, imported dogs have brought in diseases or parasites not normally found here. While the numbers of dogs euthanized in shelters has dropped dramatically in past years and demand for dogs is intense, not everyone agrees that bringing dogs from foreign countries is the best way to meet that demand.
But for a situation such as the one in Afghanistan, getting animals and humans out is a priority if lives are to be saved.
“The already-grim prospects for dogs there are bound to get worse,” says Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, visiting fellow, Animal Law and Policy Program, Harvard Law School.
Raising awareness through social media or lobbying politicians can help, but financial support for organizations already on the ground in places where humanitarian disasters are occurring is probably the best way to help animals in times of war or other crises.
“The large organizations that fundraise in the U.S. have a mandate for financial transparency, so you are more likely to trust that dollars donated result in action for animals,” she says.
But however it’s done, helping animals must go hand in paw with helping people.
“We cannot make the world better for animals without also making it healthier for people,” Dr. Smith-Blackmore says. “The condition of people and animals is inexorably intertwined. It sounds trite, but I do believe in the butterfly effect. If we are kinder to one another here, if we strive to make things better where we can, approaching the periphery of where we cannot yet help, we will set up pathways for improvements in the darkest of places.”
Q: What do the terms “super-premium” and “natural” mean on pet food labels? Are they better for my pet?
A: You might be surprised to learn that those terms, along with “premium,” “ultra-premium” and “gourmet,” don’t mean much at all. They have no official legal definition, and pet foods that tout these descriptions are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients than any other complete and balanced pet food. That’s according to the United States Food & Drug Administration, which oversees pet food labeling.
That said, foods labeled as premium may well be made with higher quality ingredients, giving them greater density per volume. That means the nutrients they contain may be more easily absorbed. Premium foods cost more, but you may end up feeding less than you would of another food, while giving your pet a higher percentage of ingredients.
The term “natural” doesn’t have an official definition, at least not when it comes to pet food. It’s usually used to describe foods that don’t contain artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, but it’s not a synonym for “organic,” which means that plants or animals were raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones or that animals were fed organic feed. There are no official rules regarding the labeling of organic foods for pets.
What about pet foods labeled “human-grade”? It doesn’t mean you can sit down at the table with Phluphy or Phydeaux and share their meal with them. According to the FDA, “human-grade” means a food is edible for people, but unless that particular pet food is produced in USDA-inspected plants for human foods, it doesn’t qualify as human-grade.
Pet food labels must have contact information for the manufacturer. Don’t hesitate to call if you have questions about ingredients or what terms on labels mean. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
-- Lots to celebrate about pets in September. It’s Happy Cat Month, National Service Dog Month, National Pet Insurance Month, Responsible Dog Ownership Month and Animal Pain Awareness Month. Consider adopting a senior or special needs pet or promote their adoption during Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable-Pet week, Sept. 12 to 18. The last full week of the month is National Dog Week and National Deaf Dog Awareness Week (Sept. 19 to 25). And don’t forget National Hug Your Hound Day and National Pet Memorial Day on Sept. 12; National Pet Bird Day, Sept. 17; Puppy Mill Awareness Day, Sept. 18; National Meow Like a Pirate Day, Sept. 19 (avast, ye mousers; after them bilge rats!); and International Rabbit Day, Sept. 25.
-- Did you hate wearing glasses when you were a kid? Lots of us did. Danielle Crull and her cat Truffles are making things better for glasses-wearing kids these days. Crull, an optician in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, enlists her cat Truffles to help kids feel more comfortable and confident when it comes to wearing glasses and having eye exams. Truffles demos glasses as well as eye patches, which may need to be worn by children with an eye disease called amblyopia. Seeing Truffles model the eyewear or being able to message the cat on Instagram can make all the difference in how kids feel about their eye care and eyewear, leaving them smiling instead of crying.
-- Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs for short) are large and powerful. Their job is to protect flocks and herds from predators such as wolves or mountain lions. They are usually white so as to blend in with their charges. Flock-guarding breeds come from mountainous areas in central Europe such as the Pyrenees in France and the Apennines in Italy, and Turkey’s rugged Anatolian region. Flock-guarding breeds include Akbash, Anatolian shepherds, great Pyrenees, kuvasz and Maremma sheepdogs. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTIO/N
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.